Welcome to my brain gym. Today’s exercise: a sonnet.

Background: I’m finding poetry—reading and writing it, mulling it over—helps with the brain fuzz. I’m going to keep myself accountable for this particular variety of brain exercise by posting here about what I’m reading and writing.

What follows is a very rough first draft of a poem inspired by my recent obsessive listening to the soundtrack of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. Hip hop isn’t my genre, but I like Hamilton’s driving beats and brilliant rhymes (e.g., “a bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists? / Give me a position, show me where the ammunition is”). I’m also impressed how much history the lyrics fit into a small space.

Today, therefore, I started with a simple beat and a small space: the iamb and the constraints of the English sonnet. It’s unlikely this poem’s final form will be a sonnet, but it’s as good a place as any to begin.


Founders, early 21st-century-style, U.S.A.

Penn Warren lent them black coats, shining chains,
the Lord. He reminded us they suffered.
An alabaster Washington was framed
by Williams: “Too powerful for comfort”

of women or his slaves. Yet some had gleaned
equality was not impossible.
Emancipated thinking led to dreams
of coalitions grown unstoppable.

Miranda’s crafted more than pop lyrics—
gave immigrants their due. He made us woke.
We question narratives, why stories stick,
why textbooks pacify more than provoke.

His music’s paradoxical and sage:
Brown founders sing their new selves on the stage.

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